The U.S. military believes that it could potentially destroy the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan by the end of 2017, according to a military spokesman.
Islamic State Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K, has been a prime target for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The group was the focus of public attention in April when the U.S. dropped its most massive non-nuclear bomb, known as the “MOAB,” on an ISIS-K compound in Nangarhar province. U.S. forces followed up the strike with a large nighttime raid on an ISIS-K leader’s compound.
The military believes these efforts will help ensure the group’s impending destruction.
“We have a very good chance of destroying them in 2017, making it very clear that when ISIS fighters are destroyed elsewhere around the globe that this is not the place for you to come to plot your attacks,” said Capt. Bill Salvin, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, as quoted by Agence France-Presse.
Salvin noted that IS-K had between 2,500 and 3,000 fighters at its peak. Recent losses and desertions have lowered that number to no more than 800.
IS-K first established itself in Afghanistan in 2015, primarily in the country’s mountainous eastern regions in the Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.
The MOAB strike is believed to have killed approximately 96 fighters. The follow-up raid on an IS-K compound targeted Abdul Hasib, a local IS-K leader. Two U.S. Army Rangers were killed in the attack, possibly by friendly fire.
U.S. engagements with both IS-K and the significantly larger Taliban are likely to intensify as the traditional Afghan fighting season begins. Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal believes that the Taliban and al-Qaida still present the greater threat.
“It’s not that they don’t pose a threat, but I would argue that the Taliban pose a far greater threat to the stability of Afghanistan,” Roggio told AFP.
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